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Lampard’s recent naivety and complication in team selection

As the season has progressed, Lampard has built a knack for picking a team that was adept to win the game at hand. That has come through v...

As the season has progressed, Lampard has built a knack for picking a team that was adept to win the game at hand. That has come through various decisions: slowly integrating Pulisic; phasing out the likes of Barkley, Pedro, Alonso etc; and most importantly, trusting our talented pool of youth. It’s surprising that Lampard’s recent team selections, most notably against Valencia and West Ham, have been extremely questionable.

Against Valencia, Lampard chose to include Christensen for the first time in months which inevitably unsettled the organisation and structure that Zouma and Tomori had established. Now, of course, rotation is key, and there is a case to argue that Tomori’s form has dipped of late and the honeymoon period has expired compared to when he burst onto the scene with that screamer against Wolves. However, if you can, you simply don’t rotate a Centre Back pairing that has won you games and progressed to build defensive solidity in a game of high stakes. Tomori’s exclusion had a domino effect on the rest of the team that is sometimes not tangible to see. Most importantly, it undoes the work that it takes to build a partnership over time. Tomori by no means has been outstanding in recent games, there have been a number of shaky moments despite his overall good performances which have been bailed out mainly by Zouma. This isn’t just a coincidence, it’s from the understanding Zouma and Tomori have built. When one goes to tackle, the other covers the ground behind in case one is beaten by the opposition. It’s a formula that has worked and proved to be effective, but Frank changed this against Valencia and it was one of our most unorganised defensive performances of the season – timing and what positions we rotate is key.

We’re coming up to a festive period that hasn’t been too kind to us in recent seasons – the fixtures come thick and fast, rotation is key to sustainably and effectively get results to see us through to the other side of 2019. Our dips in recent years have notably been from a certain two Italian managers’ stubbornness to tweak their starting 11s which inevitably led to fatigue which made us drop points. Lampard knows how gruelling this period is, he is aware of the need to rotate. There is no denying Chelsea lack quality in their squad depth in defence and attack, so naturally whoever comes in may not perform at the same level as who would regularly start. A prime example of this is Giroud and Pedro coming in for Abraham and Willian respectively against West Ham.

Again, rotation is needed, but Lampard chose two players who haven’t played a first-team game for Chelsea in months. Giroud, whilst he has his assets that can make a difference, simply does not suit Lampard’s style of play, hence Giroud’s exclusion up until now. Batshuayi has his faults, but he at least offers some of the movement and energy needed to create space and break defensive lines. It seemed that Michy was Lampard’s go-to-man in the absence of Tammy, yet Lampard strangely, perhaps too kindly, opted for Giroud which contradicted his past selections of Michy. Furthermore, the inclusion of Pedro also proved to be the wrong decision. Pedro has been a great servant to Chelsea, but it’s evident he is way past his best now. Starting Hudson-Odoi or Mount at RW, for example, would have been good rotation and would have proven to be a more quality selection. The problem wasn’t our defence or lack of creativity against West Ham, it was the quality of finishing our chances which was partly down to Lampard’s selection Pedro and Giroud, xG had us to win the game 3-1.

The game against Villa will need further rotation. Jorginho has looked exhausted in recent games and James has had a lot of running to do in recent games - I would rest both of these players and play this team to get the win:

JMH’s team vs Aston Villa (H) GK: Kepa RB: Azpilicueta CB: Zouma CB: Tomori LB: Emerson CM: Kante CM: Kovačić RW: Willian CAM: Pulisic LW: Hudson-Odoi ST: Abraham (If not fit then Michy).

Prediction: Chelsea 3 – 1 Villa (Pulisic, CHO, Tammy & Grealish to score)

Written by: @ChelseaCentral

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